Turning down a drink in Britain is considered almost offensive. So if you want to stay sober you’d better have a good excuse. Here’s what you need to tell your British friends to get away with it
1. ‘I’m on antibiotics’
You can’t argue with that. It’s bullet proof. If it’s doctor’s orders there’s nothing you can do. It’s why this is the number one excuse for not drinking among pregnant women who don’t want anyone to know they’re pregnant yet. But beware, people might ask you questions like: What illness do you have? When did you start taking antibiotics? How many a day do you take? How much longer will you have to take them? Be also prepared for questions about the kind of antibiotics you are taking because with some of them drinking is fine. To avoid people googling medicine names and concluding that you can get hammered, just say: “I don’t know what type, all I know is my doctor said not to drink”.
2. I’m not feeling well
This excuse only works if you don’t want to stay out for very long. Because if you’re not well enough for drinking booze, you’d better not have the energy to chat, dance and be merry for hours on end, because that would just be wrong. If you’re planning on joining your friends for a sober couple of hours, that’s fine. Just say you have a headache and are feeling unwell, but have pumped yourself full of Lemsip, which will wear off in a little while. Perfect. The same applies to claiming you have to get up early for work. Not drinking is ok, but leaving early is advisable.
3. ‘I’m driving’
This only works if you’re actually driving or if you at least own a car. Otherwise the web of lies you’ll have to create just to get out of drinking for one night seems hardly worth the effort. People will absolutely accept this excuse. However, chances are your friends will try to convince you to ditch your car, start drinking heavily, get a taxi home and then another taxi the next morning to get your car. It’s very common, especially at weddings.
4. ‘I’m still recovering from last night’
This is where we start to hit murky waters. Everyone will feel your pain – albeit it might be made up – but people will most likely try to convince you to have a drink to make you feel better. A phrase you will almost certainly come across using this excuse will be: “Are you sure a little hair of the dog won’t help?” Favourite ‘hangover cures’ include a Bloody Mary cocktail or a pint of cold beer. But don’t worry, you’ll get away with this one too as long as you emphasise just HOW MUCH you drank last night and how you WILL THROW UP if you so much as smell alcohol. No one wants to see you vomit.
5. ‘I’m doing a dry month’
You’re most likely to get away with this excuse in the month of January – when lots of Brits try to detox having indulged in too much booze over the Christmas holidays. Other months are acceptable too though. Depending on how far along you are in your imaginary dry month, some people will be impressed with your perseverance. Others, on the other hand, will envy your will power and express their jealousy by accusing you of being ‘boring’ and trying to force a drink down your throat. It depends how drunk they are.
And if you’re worried about committing yourself to a whole month of abstinence instead of just the one night, don’t worry, it’s also perfectly acceptable to say: “My dry month only lasted two weeks/one week/two days/one night”. You can also just say something like: “I’m not drinking at the moment”, but be prepared for answering endless questions as to why not and continuous attempts to break your will.
6. ‘I don’t drink’
This line only works if you’re among people who don’t know you and who you won’t see again. A professional engagement perhaps, or a blind date.
In such circumstances, this excuse too is bullet proof. It’s just the same as saying: “I’m a vegetarian”. No one will try and get you to eat meat. Be prepared for the question of the WHY NOT though. If you want to end people’s curiousness, simply say: “My dad used to be an alcoholic” or even better: “I’m an alcoholic”. No one will want to hear any more.
7. ‘I’m pregnant’
Again, use this excuse only if you’re among people you’ll not be faced with again, unless you’re prepared to grow a bump and produce a child in a few months. Alternatively, of course, you could claim to have had a miscarriage but that’s taking it a bit far, isn’t it?
Improving your English? Here’s some notable vocab we picked out for you:
- to get away with (verb): to escape blame, punishment, or undesirable consequences for (an act that is wrong or mistaken)
- effort (noun): a vigorous or determined attempt
- hammered (adjective): drunk
- murky (adjective): 1. dark and gloomy, especially due to thick mist; 2. obscure or morally questionable (“a government minister with a murky past”)
murky waters: a situation or circumstance that is unclear, or unfamiliar and which may be dangerous or difficult as a result
- albeit (conjunction): though
- hair of the dog (informal phrase): an alcoholic drink taken to cure a hangover